Although the world came to love him in the role of Ralph Malph on “Happy Days,” Don Most has worn many hats as an entertainer working in television, theater, film and music.

Performance is something that runs through Don Most’s blood.  Throughout the past five decades it is something Don has proved again and again in each step he takes along the pop culture journey.  The world first got to know him as Donny Most in the role of Ralph Malph on the iconic 70’s sit-com Happy Days.  Under his red locks and through his freckled face, Don was the wise cracking member of the Happy Days gang.  One of the most successful television shows of all time, Don had his face on everything from action figures to animated programs where he and Anson “Potsie” Webber played sidekicks to Ron Howard’s character Richie Cunningham and hung out with Henry Winkler’s enigmatic character, The Fonz.  But when Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, marking the end of the classic era of the series, he often found himself sitting in the shadow of Ralph, preventing him from getting the kind of acting roles that he wanted.  As a result, Don Most had to reinvent himself and his career.  Between taking guest starring roles on favorites like Love Boat, CHIP’s, Murder She Wrote and Baywatch, Don turned to voice acting, heater and directing as a way to continue a career in show business.

Still maintaining a strong fan following from his role in “Happy Days,” Don Most has recently turning to music, bringing his revue “Singin’ and Swinging’” to jazz clubs across America as he performs some of the great standards of the American Songbook.

Although still recognized as Ralph Malph today, with time distancing himself from his Happy Days character, Don has been popping back on the pop culture radar again.  Recently taking a reoccurring role on Glee as Jayma Mays’ father, Rusty Pillsbury, Don has made appearances on Bones and Men of a Certain Age and appeared in the independent films Chez Upshaw and Campin’ Buddies.

Now Don is turning another corner in his career by putting his focus in a new surprising venture that has taken fans by surprise.  Don Most has put together his own musical night club act, Singin’ and Swingin’.  Backed his own band and performing some of the great jazz classics from the American song book, Don Most has been taking his act to clubs from New York to LA, singing the songs that he loves and getting a warm reception from audiences.  Catching Don on the road between gigs, Don revealed to me that while we think of him as an actor, he really entered show business through song as a teenager.  Music is still something that has a strong hold on his heart, and now he is bringing the music he loves to his fans.

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One of Canada’s most important bands from the 1990′s, The Tea Party, featuring Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows are back with their first new album in a decade.

During the 1990’s rock trio The Tea Party was one of the most important bands in Canada.  Comprised of three friends from Windsor, Ontario – singer/guitarist Jeff Martin, bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows – The Tea Party formed in Toronto in the early 90’s and found national success with Save Me in 1993.  Embraced by discontented and alienated Generation Xer’s who were looking toward Seattle’s grunge scene, The Tea Party combined hard rock with Middle Eastern instruments, creating their own unique sound.  Through seven studio albums, twenty one cross country Canadian tours, and a string of alternative hits such as Sister Awake, Walking Wounded and The River, The Tea Party became a touchstone on the Canadian rock scene for an entire generation of music fans.  However, in 2005 the band disbanded over “creative differences,” and the three members went onto other projects.  Jeff Martin attempted a solo career, Jeff Burrows worked on various music projects while working as a Windsor based rock DJ and Stuart Chatwood composed music for the video game Prince of Persia.

The Tea Party – The Ocean at the End (2014)

But in 2011 The Tea Party reemerged for what was believed to be a brief reunion, and by the end of the summer it was announced that it was such a positive experience that the group planned to stay together.  Now, ten years after the release of their “final” album, The Tea Party has released The Ocean at the End, their first album of new material since their reformation.

Having recently returned from Australia, where they maintain a massive following, and currently promoting the album with a Canadian wide tour, I was able to talk with Stuart Chatwood about the new album and The Tea Party’s return to the studio.  Although much has changed since the 1990’s, The Tea Party has managed to evolve while keeping their unique sound which fans are drawn to.  The result is a great album reminding listeners what well-crafted rock LP is supposed to sound like.

Bassist/keyboardist Stuart Chatwood is back with The Tea Party after a successful side project of writing the music for the video game “Prince of Persia.”

Sam Tweedle:  I’ve spent the last few days listening to The Ocean at the End and just trying to absorb it as a whole.  What was it like to go back into the studio with Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows and put together new material after such a long hiatus?

Stuart Chatwood:  Well, I think some of it was familiar because it’s the eighth or ninth studio record, and we’ve been in other studios with other artists as well.  But some of it was unique because we’ve grown so much as individuals now, and as you mature you tend to not give a damn about what people think anymore.  When you’re young and in the studio you [say] “Am I playing this vibrato right?  Am I bending this note right?” Now it’s like “I know what I’m doing.  I’m going to play my part.  If we need to fix it later then we’ll address that.”  It just changes the dynamic in the studio.  Takes get done quicker.  Ideas are committed to tape.  When you do things quicker you get to try out new things because there’s time left.  I also think it was good to work with the three band members again because we hadn’t recorded in that manner in quite a while.  We started working with a few other co-producers towards the end in 2004.  So it was nice to have Jeff Martin have the reins again.

Sam:  Let’s talk about the evolution.  Certainly we all evolve over ten years, but when you are listening to this album it clearly sounds like a Tea Party album and not some sort of updated thing.  How are you able to evolve yet still maintain the same sound that your fan base comes to expect from you?

“When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations. Imagine there being four popular rock stations. Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4. We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs. It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on.”

Stuart:  I just think it’s in our system.  It’s in our blood.  We grew up in Windsor, across from Detroit, which is the greatest music city in my opinion.  When we were kids we listened to four Detroit rock stations.  Imagine there being four popular rock stations.  Howard Stern was in Detroit back then on W4.  We had WRIF 101, 98.7, WBAX – you’re just bombarded by five or six hundred songs.  It was the pantheon of British hard rock that we grew up on.  So that’s just in our system to begin with.  Another contributing factor was that Jeff Martin was not allowed to listen to that music until a certain age.  His Dad insisted that he listen to blues, and play blues, only.

Sam:  No kidding?

“one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is. When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar. “

Stuart:  Yeah.  He was not allowed to listen to Black Sabbath or Deep Purple records in the house.  So before Jeff heard every single track by Led Zeppelin, he heard every single track by B.B. King, Freddie King and Albert King, so it gave him that context.  Just to make that point more clear, there is probably no other city in Canada that has more of a blues influence than Windsor which is surrounded by America.  So that is the benefit of being from Windsor I guess. So that’s in our system and, whether we like it or not, that’s going to come into our music.  I think one of the goals on this album was to get Jeff Martin back on guitar because, with all his production and side projects, he was playing keyboards and working on vocals with people and he had forgotten what a great guitarist he is.  When we were growing up together, and when we were living together in Toronto when the band formed, for six hours a day he would play guitar.  He had a Marshall Stack in our apartment and he’d just crank that thing and put on Led Zeppelin I, play it until the end, then put on Led Zeppelin II, and continue the process.  I would take over and play bass for a while.  Our poor neighbors.  But back then it was just so instantaneous.  He’d here one riff, think about it for a second, and then his hands would be playing it.  We had to get him back to that way of thinking.  It happened on this record.  The solo on [the song] The Ocean at the End is probably some of the best guitar that he’s ever recorded in his career.

Sam:  That song is a real triumph.  It’s like one of those classic rock songs that exceeds radio play timing.

Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull joins The Tea Party for the title track of their latest release, “The Ocean at the End”: “When you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson. Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour.”

Stuart:  It’s our eight and a half minute epic song.  We had Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull perform on that one.  That was great.

Sam:  How did you get Ian involved?

Stuart:  In 1994 we toured England and he showed up at this little pub we were playing in Leicester, England.  Our manger came up to us and said “Ian Anderson, the flute player from Jethro Tull, is at the back bar” and we said “Okay.  Sound check is over!”  We went back and had a couple of pints with him and he told us that it was great and that we were one of the young bands that caught his ear because we had captured the sound of his golden era and we tried to move things a little bit forward.  So getting a compliment like that form his was incredible.  So when we were trying to finish this record we had some mellotron flutes on that song, which is a keyboard instrument, and I wondered how we could humanize it more with some real flutes.  So when you think of flutes and rock n’ roll there’s only one guy – Ian Anderson.  Thankfully he enjoyed the music, and he’s playing our music on tour.  I got an e-mail from someone last night who went and saw Jethro Tull and they play Sister Awake and a lot of our songs between sets.

“There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end. We were barely friends. Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.”

Sam:  Do you guys find that you gel as a unit better now than when you parted ways in 2005?

Stuart:  Yes.  The gelling may be more similar to when we first started the band.  There were some outside extremist negative influences on the band towards the end.  We were barely friends.  Enough water has passed under the bridge now where we can put some things aside and be friends, and be there for each other musically.

Sam:  A lot happens in a decade.  How has the changes in the music scene over a decade effect you?  Have you noticed a change?

“Recorded music is now coming to a close. Thankfully streaming music is picking up. I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us. Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us.”

Stuart:  We’re in a transitory period right now for sure.  How long was sheet music king?  It wasn’t that long.  How long was the 78 king?  Not long.  Recorded music is now coming to a close.  Thankfully streaming music is picking up.  I think systems like this that let people hear our music without paying for it is actually a good thing for us.  Our biggest hurdle, especially in the States, is getting people to hear us.  Any city where we got airplay in the States, like in Seattle, we were big.  We played this place called The Moore Theater, where Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains were playing, because we were being heard on the radio and people liked it.  So the internet has been a very beneficial thing for us.  But also, when we started it was sort of more of a mono culture.  Everyone got into the same things.  Now culture is wide open.  Everything is cool and everything is not cool.  If you relate it to fashion, back in the day it was about what length is your pants or how wide is your cuffs.  Now everything is in.  People are wearing bell bottoms and the next person down the street will wear tight pants.  There is no consensus, which is a good and a bad thing.

Sam:  You talk about the difficulties of breaking in the States, but I know you have a huge following in Australia.  Australia has a real love affair with The Tea Party.  Why is that?

“Well it comes down to exposure. Australia was the first place we went to. We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things. I almost feel that it could have happened in any country. If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now.”

Stuart:  Well it comes down to exposure.  Australia was the first place we went to.  We had, within our means, the ability to go back there a few times and it just solidified things.  I almost feel that it could have happened in any country.  If we had went to Spain first, and then went back to Spain three times on the first record, we’d be big in Spain and we’d be talking about that right now.  With America it’s a little different, and the label we were on, which was EMI, went bankrupt so that first record sunk.  We shipped the second one over for Christmas, or something, and they fired all their rock department.  For Transmission we moved over to Atlantic and our album came out the exact same week with their other act, Stone Temple Pilots, and they are only going to promote one act so we got buried under their weight.  People don’t know all these little behind the scene things.  But Buffalo was the first cities we ever sold out.  We had to add a show in San Antonio, and there’s all these little pockets of America where The Tea Party got played and was very popular.  But it never turned into a national thing like it did in Australia.

Sam:  The Tea Party just came back from Australia.  You were there through October.  What was the reaction from Australia to have The Tea Party together again?

Stuart:  This was unique.  A lot of people came out and wrote reviews of the shows.  Honestly, we go the best press of the band’s career now. This goes for the record too.  We’re getting great press.  I don’t know if tastes have changed or if people don’t hate it as much.  The critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s biggest paper, came out to see us for the first time after begging him to come over fifteen tours.  He came back stage and said “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t come out earlier.  You guys are incredible.  So much power for a three piece.”  He wrote a great story, and ended up doing five stories on us for that paper during the tour.  So I guess he liked us.  People are coming out of the woodwork all of a sudden.  In Europe we get a review like “I’ve been a fan since 1994.  I saw you at this little club.  I’ve been following you ever since.  I’m glad you put out a new record.”  So it’s like an infectious disease.  Once you get it, there’s no cure.

The Tea Party are touring Canada through November and December.  For more information on their tour, The Ocean at the End and their other ongoing projects visit their web-site at http://www.teaparty.com/#tour-section.

 

2Y43r34q_400x400POP CULTURE ADDICT NOTE:  A thanks to Beth Cavanaugh of Indoor Recess for arranging our opportunity to talk with Stuart Chatwood and continuing to introcuing PCA to some of the best musicians in the world.  Its always a pleasure to work with you and I look forward to covering more of your artists.  Check out Indoor Recess’ content and services at http://www.indoorrecess.com/.

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For over seven decades actress June Lockhart has had one of the most varied careers in pop culture.  Finding success in film, television and Broadway, she has appeared in space operas, family melodramas, rural comedies, Universal horror films, MGM musicals, live television, anthology programs, kid shows, animation voice acting, and every single sort of genre of television one can possibly imagine.  However, despite an amazing career with hundreds of credits to her name, fans will always remember her as two of television’s favorite Moms – Ruth Martin on Lassie and Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space.

The daughter of respected actors Gene Lockhart and Kathleen Lockhart, June made her film debut in 1938 when she played her parent’s daughter in A Christmas Carol.  Although choosing to focus on her studies instead of being a Hollywood kid, film roles kept calling and via the guidance of her father she found notable parts in a series of well-remembered films including All This, and Heaven Too, Adam Had Four Songs, Sergeant York, Meet Me in St. Louis and Son of Lassie.  A move to New York in 1947 to star in For Love or Money on Broadway earned her a Tony Award, and she began to appear on live anthology programs during the golden age of television.

Over seven decades June Lockhart has been in everything from Universal horror films to MGM musicals, but hit big on the pop culture radar as matriarch figures “Lassie,” “Lost in Space” and “Petticoat Junction.”

Gaining a reputation as a well-respected character actress, it was during a low point in her life that she replaced Cloris Leachmen in the role of Ruth Martin on the insanely popular family drama Lassie.  The role popularized her in households across North America, and put her on the pop culture radar.

But June would strike pop culture gold when Lassie left the airwaves in 1964 and she changed gears completely and donned a silver space suit to play the youthful mother and wife Maureen Robinson on Irwin Allen’s cult classic Lost in Space.  A psychedelic space opera beloved by generations of fans, Lost in Space ended in 1968, where June took another unlikely journey on the Cannonball Express and moved into Petticoat Junction to replace recently deceased star Bea Benederet as Dr. Janet Craig, the new “motherly figure” at the Shady Rest Hotel.  June would stay with Petticoat Junction until its end in 1970.

Joan Lockhart has become involved with the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic, calling herself their “most vocal groupie” and acting as emcee to their concerts.

Three popular series in a twelve year span sealed her his legacy on television, but June’s television appearances would stretch throughout the decades in such TV favorites as Love, American Style, Marcus Welby, Adam-12, The Hardy Boys, Magnum PI, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing, Quincy, Full House, Babylon 5, Roseanne, The Ren and Stimpy Show, Beverly Hills 90210, The Drew Carey Show, Greys Anatomy and hundreds of other TV programs.

However, in recent years June Lockhart has moved her attention away from acting and has found a new passion working with The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic.  A lifelong fan of classic and choral music, June Lockhart considers her to be the group’s most vocal “groupie.”

I had the great pleasure of speaking with June Lockhart as she was preparing for The Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic yearly concert at The Wilshire United Methodist Church, which is to be held on November 15th.  A lovely lady with a plethora of stories, June and I spoke about music, movies, television and her amazing career.

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Coven’s 1969 album “Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls” became a rock n’ roll landmark by being the first album to contain Satanism and witchcraft in the lyrics, including a ten minute Satanic mass on the B side.

In a time when heavy metal did not yet exist and Goth culture wasn’t yet a thing, it is fair to say that Jinx Dawson, the mysterious and beautiful lead singer of the rock band Coven, was way ahead of her time.  Along with bass player Oz Osbourne, drummer Steve Ross, keyboardist Rick Durrett, and guitarist Chris Nielson, Coven chilled audiences to the bone when they appeared on the Chicago music scene in 1966 with their own dark brand of progressive rock.  While most bands of the era were singing songs about peace and love, Coven had different subjects to sing about – the Occult, black magic, demonology and Satan.  Although these would become popular musical subjects only a few years later, Coven were the pioneers of Satanic rock.  Touring with acts such as The Vanilla Fudge and The Yardbirds, Coven thrilled concert goers, while terrifying parents, the clergy and authorities, with an elaborate stage show featuring coffins, inverted crosses and a black mass.  When Coven released their debut album, Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, in 1969 the album quickly became a cult favorite, although the material on the LP was unsuitable for radio play.  However, when the band was mentioned in a 1970 Esquire Magazine article about The Manson Family, Mercury Records, frightened of a backlash, took the album out of circulation and dropped Coven from their line-up.

Coven’s original line up included Oz Osbourne, Steve Ross, Rick Durrett, and their mysterious lead singer Jinx Dawson.

Now based in California, the group was struggling to survive when Jinx was given an unique opportunity to sing the title song to a little grass roots counter culture film called Billy Jack.  The song was One Tin Solider, and would climb the Billboard charts in 1971 while the unlikely little film became a cult hit.  Ironically, One Tin Soldier would become an anthem for peace and love – a far cry from Coven’s original dark image.  The band would regroup and record a toned down radio friendly self-titled album in 1972 in conjunction with One Tin Solider, but it got little attention.  In 1974 Coven gave it another shot and recorded Blood on the Snow with producer Shel Talmy, most famous for producing The Who’s TommyBlood on the Snow was a stronger release that melded the softer styles of their previous album while going back to their Occult roots.  However, by that time heavy metal music had finally become a driving force in the music industry and a little group from Britain called Black Sabbath had stolen the spotlight that Coven originated with some disturbing similarities too blatant to be coincidences.  Coven would disband not long afterwards, seemingly becoming a footnote in music history.

With a new album released in 2013, Jinx Dawson has regained her throne as the original Goth Queen.

However, in the 1990’s a new fascination with Coven would emerge out of the growing Goth culture as their music started to be rediscovered and deemed influential to the new crop of Goth and death metal bands emerging throughout the world.  In 2003 Jinx Dawson returned with a brand new solo album, Goth Queen: Out of the Vault, which brought her back onto the musical radar to regain her throne as the original Gothic Empress.  Having barely aged a day since she released Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls, Jinx Dawson has become the godmother of satanic rock music.

A mysterious and elusive woman, Jinx has only recently become assessable to fans via social media which has been a huge factor in continuing to grow her followers.  In recent years Jinx has designed and sold jewelry and clothing through her e-bay store and in 2013 released a second solo album called Jinx.  Throughout the years interviews with Jinx have been rare and in-between.  So when I reached out to Jinx via her Facebook account for an interview I was thrilled when she agreed to answer my questions if I submitted them through e-mail.  Not the way I normally like to conduct interviews, I realized that this audience with the Goth Queen was a rare and special one and I would be foolish to not agree to her terms.  The results were beyond my wildest expectations.  What I received in return for my questions was a series of honest and compelling answers outlining Jinx Dawson’s incredible journey through music, the occult and the ages.

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Winnipeg’s Sc Mira, featuring Sc and Tyler Wagar hit big in 2013 with their debut single “On My Own” and now are celebrating the Halloween season with a new free EP, “Candy Apples and Razor Blades” available on Sound Cloud.

Halloween is a special time for Winnipeg musical outfit Sc Mira.  It was at a warehouse party that lead vocalist Sc, dressed up as Pulp Fiction’s Mia Wallace (complete with a needle sticking through her heart) first met her musical collaborator Tyler Wagar, who was dressed up as “Planet Hollywood.”  For the next year the pair would collaborate on a number of songs, resulting in the formation of their band Sc Mira and their single On My Own.  A very personal piece, On My Own has gained momentum throughout the Canadian independent music scene, creating a national buzz for the band and their upcoming album due to be released in the spring of 2015.

This Halloween Sc Mira is paying tribute to their Halloween roots by releasing a free on-line three song EP called Candy Apples and Razor Blades, celebrating the season featuring covers from The Misfits and the soundtrack of the cult film Phantom of the Paradise.  Currently on a North American tour, I caught up with Sc Mira to talk about their current musical projects, and to bond over our mutual love for Phantom of the Paradise.

Sam Tweedle:  How long have you guys been performing together?

Tyler Wagar:  As a full band we’ve been performing together for about a year.  As a duo for a little bit longer than that.

Sc:  We started as Tyler and myself.  Tyler had collaborated with some songs that I had written and then we collaborated on the EP.  After we had done that we knew we needed a full band and we started looking for members.  The members have been constantly changing.  Just friends that have been helping us as long as possible, but if they have to move onto other projects, or whatever the case is, they have been.  But we seem to keep finding people that want to jump on board.  Now we have a permanent drummer.

Sam:  You guys are on a North American tour right now, right?

Tyler:  You could say that it’s North American.  We’ve done six Canadian dates so far.  We have three dates in Toronto, one in Kingston and then we are slipping down into the States.  Into the Midwest.

Sc:  Milwaukee, Madison…

Tyler:  Chicago….

Sc:  Green Bay, Minneapolis.

Sam:  I really think On My Own is one of the best singles that have crossed my desk in a long while.  I know that it has a very personal and deep meaning to you Sc.  Can you tell me a bit about it?

Sc:  I wrote the song a few years back after I broke my foot, again, for the nine hundredth time.  I had cancer a couple of years back and it has caused a lot of secondary physical issues.  Even when I moved on from the direct threat [of cancer] from my life, it just kept being a reoccurring problem and really it still is.  So the song is about being stuck in a body that is pretty useless in a body to me at times.

Sam:  How has the reception to the song been?  It seems to have put you on the radar.

Tyler: Yeah, it’s been great in regards to publicly.  People have been noticing it.  [It’s being played] on CBC.  Fans are liking it when it’s played live.

Sc:  It’s a little bit weird because the song is so personal and I never meant to share it.  People are asking about it and wanting to know what it’s about.  That’s what music is about.  Wanting to know where it comes from.

Sam:  When is the EP coming out?

Tyler:  We’re hoping for March or April.

Sam:  How long have you been working on it?

Sc:  it’s been wrapped for a while.  We fashioned it but didn’t even have a whole band.  We wanted to get ourselves out there before releasing it.

Sam:  So this is a gem you’re sitting on.   Now I read you have a Halloween project in the works.

Tyler:  Yeah.  We just had a Halloween EP released about a half an hour ago.  We recorded a couple of our favorite Halloween tunes.

Sc:  Yeah.  It’s free on-line as a Sound Cloud stream, but Exclaim! did an article on it.  We did it as a free release to get some content out there because we are sitting on the EP.  Its three songs.  Two are covers from the soundtrack of The Phantom of the Paradise.

Tyler:  Oh yeah.

Sam:  Phantom of the Paradise is one of my top three all-time favorite films!

Sc:  Nobody usually knows what it is.

Sam:  What songs did you do?

On their Halloween EP, “Candy Apples and Razor Blades,” Sc Mira covers Paul William’s “Life at Last” and “Somebody Super From You” from the cult film “Phantom of the Paradise.”

Sc:  We did Life at Last and Somebody Super Like You because the themes are very Halloweeny.  The last song we did is Halloween by the Misfits.

Sam:  Now it’s Winnipeg that has that strange Phantom of the Paradise cult following, right?

Tyler:  That’s defiantly Winnipeg.

Sam:  Yeah – that film was a hit in Winnipeg and nobody else in the world.

Sc:  Yeah.  I grew up watching Phantom of the Paradise.  I’ve seen it so many times.  My Dad would show it to us and my siblings.  I guess Tyler watched it as a kid too.

Tyler.  Yeah.  It was also my Dad’s favorite musical film.

Sc:  So it just seemed natural because Phantom of the Paradise is common ground for both of us.  We both already knew the songs.  I listen to the record year round.

Sam:  So do I.  I have it on my computer in my office.  It’s one of my all-time favorite film soundtracks.

Tyler:  When we were working on the EP in Montreal last year we ended up in a vintage store and ended up finding the record just lying around.

Sc:  I had been looking for that record for a long time.  We found it for three dollars in some shop that we went into.  We both went in and thought I might find something worth taking home and I found it at the very back of the stack.

Sam:  So beyond the Halloween project and the upcoming EP, where do you guys plan on going?  Are you working on anything else?

Tyler:  Well over the winter, after the tour and before the release, we’re going to work on more stuff.  We’re going to do some in-house demos.

Sam:  I heard that part of the strength of the Winnipeg music scene is that all you can do in the winter is write songs and make albums.

Tyler:  Either that, or skate outside at minus forty.

Sc:  I can’t skate.  I really have nothing to do but write music.

To get your own copy of Sc Mira’s Halloween EP Candy Apples and Razor Blades, as well as a downloadable version of Own My Own, visit https://soundcloud.com/pipeandhat.  This is just the beginning for this charming duo.  We’ll be looking towards Winnipeg to see what happens next.

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George Chakiris in the role of Bernardo in “West Side Story.”

When the film version West Side Story opened in movie theaters in 1961, it opened the audience up to a world of youth culture as never before seen.  Stories and films about juvenile delinquents were already common place, but West Side Story brought together the world of street gangs, racism and the crumbing American dream to the audience through dance, song, angst, romance and tragedy.  Although presented in a new and daring way, the story line was as old as Shakespeare himself, and the power of the film and its themes continue to captivate new audiences generation after generation.  The film, rightfully, won ten Oscars and made the majority of its young unknown stars household names.  One of those young stars was George Chakiris.

George Chakiris with his Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1961.

Starting in Hollywood as a dancer, George Chakiris could be seen performing in the chorus of films such as White Christmas, Brigadoon, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  A dark haired young man with intense hawk like good looks, George was soon recruited to perform in the London stage version of the Broadway sensation West Side Story in the role of the streetwise leader of the Jets, Riff.  But when he was asked to audition for the film version, he changed sides where he would forever be remembered by film audiences as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks.  Performing opposite of Natalie Wood in the role of his naïve kid sister Maria, and Rita Moreno as his sensuous lover Anita, George Chakiris lit up the screen with a combination of sensuality and danger as he loved, fought, danced and died on the streets of New York City.  His performance would win him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and turn him into a screen idol. With a lifetime performing on film, television and stage, as well as recording half a dozen LP’s, George Chakiris has been a perennial favorite of film fans worldwide.  However, in recent years he has slowed down his acting work and has focused on a new venture creating a line of sterling silver jewelry.  A talented craftsman, Chakiris’ jewelry can be purchased on-line through a major Japanese distributor.  However, it doesn’t stop him from still getting the occasional nod from the Hollywood community who have the memory of his performance of West Side Story etched in their memories forever.

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 WILL BE ATTENDING ONTARIO’S BEST SMALL SIZED POP CULTURE CONVENTION!  GET IN YOUR CAR AND MAKE THE TRIP TO HAMILTON.  YOU WON’T BE DISJOINTEDNESS.  NO LINES, NO OUTRAGEOUS PRICES, NO CRUSHING CROWDS.  JUST A LOT OF FUN, THE WAY THAT COMIC CONVENTIONS SHOULD BE!  HAMILTON COMIC CON WAS PCA’S FAVORITE COMIC CON OF 2013.  WE’RE LOOKING FORWARD TO RETURNING ON OCTOBER 4TH!

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REMEMBERS

LAUREN BACALL

1924 – 2014

Lauren Bacall had “the look,” cementing her role in cinema history.

Lauren Bacall’s footprints are not embedded in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.  For film fans that flock to the fabled movie theater, which acts as a holy shrine that honors the most iconic stars of Hollywood, it seemed like an injustice that her imprints are not left there amongst the other legendary stars of the silver screen.  But there is a story behind why she is not there.  Lauren Bacall was invited to lay her mark on the courtyard in 1953 at the premier of How to Marry a Millionaire.  However,  feeling that anybody with a movie could get their prints on the famed courtyard, Lauren Bacall became the first person to refuse the honor.  In a statement to the press Bacall wrote “’Before I came to Hollywood, Grauman’s Chinese was something very special to me – it meant not only achievement – it was the Hall of Fame of the motion picture industry and the people in it were unforgettable and irreplaceable. I don’t think of myself as either – I feel that my career is undergoing a change and I want to feel I’ve earned my place with the best my business has produced.’ As a result she was never invited by Grauman’s again.  But it was in Lauren Bacall’s nature to defy the Hollywood elite and go against what was expected from an actress of her era.  Smart, bold, blunt and tough, Lauren Bacall wasn’t your average Hollywood star.  She looked like a lady, but she could get her hands dirty and could go toe to toe with the tough guys.  As time went by Bacall’s feelings on the courtyard proved to be true, but Bacall’s statement on her own career was another story.  Lauren Bacall proved to be one of the most famous and respected actresses in American cinema.  The true blue meaning of the term “movie star.”  Her death at age 89 took away one of the few remaining actresses from the golden age of Hollywood.

Working as a teenage model, Lauren Bacall appeared on covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar before the age of eighteen. When Howard Hawkes’ wife saw her on a cover of a magazine, Hawkes had her flown to Hollywood for a screen test.

A Jewish girl brought up in the Bronx, Lauren Bacall started her career in front of the camera as teenage model, appearing on the covers of Harpers Bazarre and Vouge before the age of eighteen.  Entering the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bacall continued to work as a fashion model by day and a theater usher by night when she got her first crack at Broadway with a walk on in a production called Johnny 2X4 in 1942.  More small parts in Broadway productions followed, but eyes were looking at her in far off Hollywood.  Nancy Hawkes, the wife of director Howard Hawkes, saw Bacall on a cover of a magazine and suggested to her husband that she had the look for the femme fatale in his next picture, To Have or Have Not.  Hawkes contacted Bacall’s people and had the nineteen year old girl flown to Hollywood for a screen test.  The story goes that having never been in front of a camera before, a nervous Bacall looked down at her feet and then, with her chin still pressed against her chest, she lifted her eyes to give a piercing and seductive glare into the camera.  That image blew the lid off of everyone in the room.  That stare would become known by film fans as “The Look.”  Hawks signed Bacall to a seven year contract, became her personal manager and he and Nancy began to groom her for Hollywood success.  Not long afterwards Bogie met Bacall.

He was a 43 year old married man and Hollywood tough guy. She was a 19 year old Jewish girl from The Bronx making her first film. But together Bogie and Bacall became one of the most legendary and functional couples in Hollywood history.

Casting Lauren Bacall opposite legendary Hollywood tough guy Humphrey Bogart not only ignited a fire on screen, but off screen as well.  She was a nineteen year old girl making her first movie.  He was a forty four year old married man, albeit in a rotten marriage, who broke heads instead of hearts.  But there was a magical chemistry between the two, and the audience could feel the raw sexual tension drip off of the screen.  Bogart met his match with Bacall.  She was tough, sexy, liked to drink, liked to smoke and didn’t take shit from people.  To Have and Have Not was released in 1945 and was a box office hit, making Lauren Bacall an overnight sensation and the screen chemistry between Bogie and Bacall excited the audience.  Thus, when Bogart left his wife and married Bacall a year later, the audience was ecstatic that the onscreen love affair was now a real life one.  Bacall’s marriage to Bogart exalted her from starlet to movie star and together they became one of Hollywood’s legendary couples, both on screen and off.

While most Hollywood couples worked apart, thus fell apart, Bogie and Bacall were on fire when they were together and they were sought out as a pair time and time again.  Appearing together on radio and television, they made another three films together – The Big Sleep (1945), Dark Passage (1947), and Key Largo (1948) – all which were gigantic hits.  With her husky voice, blunt wise cracks and that piercing “look” Bacall was the perfect dame in any film noir, and Bogart was her go to hero.

Box office success both apart and together, Bogie and Bacall seemed to do everything together – and Bacall managed to domesticate Bogart giving him the new role as a family man.

But Bacall also had another effect over Bogart his previous wives lacked.  She seemed to be able to domesticate him.  His fourth marriage, Bogart settleed down and become a family man.  The couple had a pair of children, a boy and a girl, and movie magazines did stories on their home life, although there was plenty of late night parties and boozing for the couple.  But that was the difference with Bogie and Bacall.  They seemed to do everything as a couple and were happy doing it.  They backed each other up, supported each other’s projects, did public appearances together, shared each other’s politics and became a well-oiled unit.  Even as stars they were equally paired as box office draws both together and separately.  Bogie and Bacall walked side by side and hand in hand on the same path.  There was just something so right about them.

Beautiful, smart and tough, Lauren Bacall earned a reputation for being difficult to work of because she wasn’t a push over, which was not always popular by male movie executives during the 1940′s and 1950′s. However, the result of her decisions assured that she rarely made a bad film.

Now Lauren Bacall was very aware of her star power and she had high expectations about the scripts that she chose.  The result was that she rarely made a bad film, but due to her high standards she got the reputation of being difficult to work with.  In other words, she wasn’t a pushover, which didn’t always prove favorable to the studio heads, especially when it was coming from a woman.  But each film she made seemed to be a winner, and she worked with only the biggest stars and the best directors.  During her peak period she had hits with Bright Leaf with Gary Cooper, Young Man with a Horn with Kirk Douglas, Blood Alley with John Wayne, How to Marry a Millionaire with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and William Powell, Patterns with Van Heflin and Designing Woman with Gregory Peck.

When Bogart died in 1957, leaving Bacall a widow at age 33, Bacall picked herself up and kept working, but her film roles decreased.  Instead, she left Hollywood and returned to New York to go back to her first love – Broadway, which she would be heavily involved in through to the 1980’s.  Appearing in a chain of shows on the New York stage, Bacall won Tony awards in 1970 for Applause and 1981 for Woman of the Year.  Bacall was also heavily involved in the Chicago theater scene in the 1970’s.  She was romantically connected briefly with Frank Sinatra, and had a short lived second marriage to two time Academy Award winner Jason Roberts Jr, who she had another son with.  Bacall made a few notable film appearances throughout her later years, including an emotional performance in John Wayne’s final film The Shootiest, a seat amongst a sea of famous faces in Murder on the Orient Express, the lead role in the star stalking thriller The Fan with James Garner, a cameo in the Academy Award winning thriller Misery, and a memorable appearance in the experimental film Dogville with Nicole Kidman.

Losing out on the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1996 for “The Mirror has Two Faces,” Lauren Bacall was awarded and Honorary Oscar in 2010 in recognition of her contribution to the golden age of Hollywood.

But it was in 1996 that Lauren Bacall was finally nominated for her first Academy Award for Supporting Actress when she played Barbara Streisand’s mother in The Mirror Has Two Faces.  She was the favorite to win, and film fans worldwide thought that she was justified the Oscar.  However, the Oscar instead went to Juliette Binoche for The English Patient.  In one of the tackiest moments in Oscar history, Binoche took the stage and called out to Lauren Bacall with the Oscar in her hand and waved.  Bacall gave Binoche “the look.” Lauren Bacall was finally given an honorary Oscar in 2010 for recognition of her legendary status in the motion picture industry.  Let’s see Juliette Binoche get that honor when she’s in her 80s!

One of the greatest screen legends, Lauren Bacall was strength and class during her entire career.  Beloved by fans worldwide and throughout the ages, she will forever be remembered.  However, while the handprints in Grauman’s courtyard stand like fossils of Hollywood’s golden age, Lauren Bacall is not amongst them.  All we have of her is the timeless images of her on film, and the memory that “the look” burnt into our minds.

In the world of paranormal investigators, Steve DiSchiavi is unique.  He isn’t going into haunted locations with infra-red cameras or spirit voice boxes.  The tools of his trade are his sharp mind and dusty old books from libraries and archives.  He’s never seen a ghost, and he isn’t interested in seeing ghost.  But he knows fear, and he has a special way with dealing with frightened people.  Instead, Steve DiShiavi’s  job is to help the living by finding out the often sordid past of their haunted properties.  He knows every person and every house he sees.

A retired New York City homicide detective, Steve DiSchiavi uses his talents as an investigator to put together the puzzle pieces of the haunted past on Travel Channel’s The Dead Files.  Along with co-investigator Amy Allen, a powerful psychic who can talk with the dead, Steve has been helping home and business owners come to grips with the unknown entities that go bump in the night for six seasons.  While Amy walks through the buildings facing the dead, Steve conducts the interviews with the victims of the haunting about their experiences, and follows up with historians, law officials and archivists while digging through historical documents, manuscripts, archives and libraries in order to piece together the often brutal and terrifying past.  The results lead to Steve and Amy coming together and discovering how their information matches up. The results are always astonishing.  Amy and Steve are two investigators using different methods and techniques, but with one result – helping their clients find some sort of peace.

The cop and the psychic – Amy Allen and Steve DiSchiavi are a different kind of paranormal investigation team on Travel Channel’s hit TV series “The Dead Files.”

A tough guy with a heart of gold, Steve DiSchiavi is the public’s guide through the mysteries on The Dead Files.  With over thirty years on the mean streets of New York, Steve has seen a lot of gruesome stuff and dealt with a lot of hysterical people, preparing him for such an unusual job he has on The Dead Files.  Asking all the right questions, Steve has a calculating mind and a compassionate way with people.  He is able to get people to tell their stories, without fear of judgment, and can guide them to the answers that they need in order to deal with the things that they fear.

Last year I interviewed Steve’s partner Amy Allen, which proved to be one of PCA’s most popular interviews to date.  As a follow up to that interview, I was happy to be able to get Steve DiSchiavi, on the telephone to talk to him about his unique place in the world of paranormal investigations and about what he does, and how his life has been changed by The Dead Files.  A very different kind of interview by a very different kind of investigator, Steve proved to be talkative and friendly, but as tough as the New York streets that he came from.  Steve has seen a lot of scary things and a lot of death, and as a result one thing that doesn’t scare him is ghosts.

READ FULL INTERVIEW

REMEMBERS

ROBIN WILLIAMS

1951 – 2014

I was born in the 1970’s, which was a goldmine of pop culture goodness that scattered the cultural landscape.  Figures so bright and colorful that the youngest mind could recognize them immediately – Muppets, Village People, Star Wars, KISS, Farrah Fawcett, Mr. Kotter, Fonzie….and Mork.  Oh Mork.  Whether he was wearing the rainbow suspenders or his red spacesuit with the inverted silver triangle, Robin Williams stood amongst the most popular cultural icons of the era.  That friendly grin, the feathered hair, the silly voice.  He was funny, he was zany and he was just so weird.  He had a mouth that seemed to move faster than his brain and did the opposite of everything considered normal.  No wonder the entire world embraced Robin Williams when he made his cultural debut on Mork and Mindy. It was silly, but it was fun, and I just loved him.  I remember my mother bought me one of those Mork action figures that came with his spaceship that was in the form of an egg.  The action figure was the same size as the Kenner Star Wars figures and soon Mork was hanging out in my shoe box of action figures, along with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and fighting Boba Fett and Bossk.  It was perfect marketing and a great toy, and was a cherished possession from my childhood.  You can say that from as early as I can remember Robin Williams was a part of my life.    Popular with kids, popular with parents, popular with people of all ages, Robin Williams was easy to love.

And that universal love was what seemed to help Robin Williams maintain his popularity throughout the decades, and why a stunned world is in mourning tonight.  It didn’t matter what Robin Williams did, we still loved him.  When he made a blockbuster movie we loved him.  When he made a stinker, and he made quite a few in his career, we still loved him.  In fact, nobody could make as many bad movies as Robin Williams did and still be a bankable star.  The public would always remember the dozen magical films he made and all would be forgiven.

Everybody has a favorite Robin Williams movie.  He crossed over so many genres.  He did dramas, comedies, horror films, family films, fantasy films, voiced animated characters and did comic book movies.  But while the world will always remember him as a comedian, the truth is that Robin Williams was a fine dramatic actor.  It was walking along that thin tightrope between pathos and comedy that Robin Williams was at his very best.  After Mork and Mindy was over, Robin Williams’ career went into a comedy slump, fueled by cocaine and alcohol and terrible scripts, until he reinvented himself as a dramatic actor in 1987 for Good Morning, Viet Nam which earned him his first Academy Award nomination.  A serious film about a funny man, Williams realized he had this ability to show a very human face behind the mask of the comedic character.  If he allowed the audience to see his human side, he could increase the emotional impact of his performance.  It was genius, and something few performers had the ability to do.  Through films like Dead Poet’s Society, Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King and Patch Adams we saw this very real eccentric man shine through the laughter, and that’s how we loved him.  There was something warm and comforting about Robin Williams’ performances.  Let’s face it.  If any other actor in the world did Mrs. Doubtfire it would have been downright creepy.  Only Robin Williams could pull that off.

My favorite Robin Williams movie is Good Will Hunting, the film in which he earned an Oscar for Best Supportying Actor for in 1997.  But I have always had a soft spot for Popeye.  Universally panned by critics ever since its release in 1980, Popeye was released during an era when comic based films were few and far between.  Williams’ big screen debut, the audience just didn’t get the larger than life characters and the cartoonish antics.  But later viewings show that Popeye was ahead of its time.  It was a visual masterpiece, and Williams and the rest of the company managed to capture the look and feel of the source material – both E.C. Segar’s original comic strip and the Max Flesher cartoons that followed.  And Robin Williams was absolutely brilliant in the role of the spinach eating sailorman.  He physically transformed his face, body language and voice to embody the iconic cartoon character, and through his whimsical performance, fueled by highly improvised mumbling, was still able to find little moments of sweetness and pathos which would give the audience a glimpse of the powerful dramatic actor he would eventually become.  Already getting raked over the coals by people writing tributes about Robin Williams tonight, Popeye is worth a second look at a young Robin Williams at the start of his career still developing as the master performer that he was destined to become.  He was already brilliant. Hollywood just didn’t know what to do with him yet.

But while he gave us laughter, something just wasn’t right inside of Robin Williams and we never knew it and he never talked about it.  He has become the personification of the classic image of the sad clown.  Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside.  Over the weeks to come much is going to be said and written about what happened to Robin Williams, and we’ll talk about mental health and suicide and prevention and hopefully a healthy discussion will take place that will help others that have hit a dark spot similar to the one that Robin Williams reached.  But we’ll also try to figure out just why Robin Williams decided to take his own life and ask how it could have been prevented.  But no matter what the experts say or the evidence shows, we will never ever know just what demons tore apart this funny and beloved man.  We will just never know.

As we mourn the loss of a beloved icon tonight, we should have comfort that the laughter and the joy that Robin Williams brought to our life will always remain.  Via his films and television programs, his interviews and his comedy performances, Robin Williams will always be as close to us as our DVD collection or YouTube.  Robin Williams may be gone, but his laughter will live on forever.

Nanu Nanu, Robin Williams, and goodbye.

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